PinotFile: 11.7 August 7, 2017
- California Spring Releases of Pinot Noir to Covet
- Transparent Pricing of Pinot Noir
- Sips of Recently Tasted Domestic Chardonnay
- Dutton-Goldfield Wines are Consistently Top Shelf
- Talisman Wines: An In-Depth Tasting of 2014 Vintage & Older Vintage Pinot Noir
- Pinot Briefs
- Commentary: Defining Great Wine
California Spring Releases of Pinot Noir to Covet
Asuncion Ridge Vineyards, Paso Robles, CA
The winery’s 7-acre estate vineyard is located at the southern end of the Santa Lucia Highlands mountain
range, at 2,000 feet elevation, a few miles from Paso Robles. Proprietors Philip Krumal and Michael Dilsaver
work with winemaker Marc Goldberg and with the inspiration of Yvonne Rich. Visit www.asuncionridge.com.
2014 Asuncion Ridge Vineyards San Louis Obispo County Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 146 cases, $45. Grown,
produced and bottled by Asuncion Ridge Vineyards, Paso Robles, CA.. Dijon clones 115, 667 and 777, and
Pommard 4 and 5, and HRM (Hoffman Mountain Ranch).
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Ripe fruit
aromas of dusty black cherry and blackberry embellished with toasty oak. Soft, smooth and lush on the palate,
featuring a middleweight core of spiced black fruits lifted by well-behaved acidity and supported by structured
tannins. The finish is generous, although some oak char and tannin infuse the finish.
2014 Asuncion Ridge Vineyards Barrel Select San Louis Obispo County Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 81 cases, $65. Grown, produced and
bottled by Asuncion Ridge Vineyards, Paso Robles, CA.. 50% free run
juice from Estate Vineyard. Clones 115, 667, 777, Pommard 4 and 5, and
HRM blended together.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Shy,
but pleasing perfume of blackberry with added notes of piney oak, earth
and vanilla. Rather bombastic and broad in the mouth with good attack,
length and finishing persistence. Very like able, with balanced tannins
and good juiciness. Even better when sampled the following day from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle.
Beresini Vineyards, Napa, CA
Beresini Vineyards (Black Dog Ranch) is a small family-owned producer of Pinot Noir in Napa Carneros. About
200 cases are produced each vintage. Both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are grown on the property. The
property is named after a Black Labrador, Vito Beresini, whose predecessors Chester and Luca watched over
the vineyard before Vito.
Steve Beresini began his wine career managing vineyards in Napa County, later starting at Phelps in 1977 as a
cellar worker, leaving in 1981 to become assistant winemaker at Niebaum Coppola. In 1983, he became the
head winemaker at Niebaum Coppola under the tutelage of Andre Tchelistcheff. He departed Coppola in 1991
to work as cellar master at Grgich Hills for 10 years, and from 2001 through 2005 worked at Garvey Vineyard
Management handling vineyard operations.
In 1988, Steve planted four acres of Chardonnay and two acres of Pinot Noir on his property in Carneros. In
2010, he leased an adjoining Pinot Noir vineyard that he also manages. The grapes were sold for the first 16
years to MacRostie Winery with some Chardonnay going to Staglin Family Vineyards. The Chardonnay grapes
were sold to TOR from 2010 to 2015 and currently to Kenward Family Wines. A little over one acre of the Pinot Noir grapes were sold to Stomping Girl Winery through 2014. As of 2015, the three acres of Pinot Noir grapes
now planted are used exclusively for the Beresini Pinot Noir.
The Beresini Pinot Noir is distributed to several fine restaurants in Napa, Sacramento and Walnut Creek and
sold on the website at www.beresinivineyards.com.
2013 Beresini Black Dog Ranch Carneros Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.559, 194 cases, $45.
Grown, produced and bottled by Beresini Vineyards, Napa, Ca.. 81% Swan selection (27-year-old vines) and
19% Calera selection (14-year-old vines). Harvest Brix 25.2º. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of well-ripened fruit include blackberry liquor, blackest cherry
and Hoison sauce. Tiptoes to the edge of ripeness without crossing the line, offering luscious flavors of black
cherry, blackberry and spice with attendant toasty oak in the background. There is a proper balance of acidity
and tannin to accommodate the fruit load. The mouthfeel is smooth and the well-fruited finish satisfies.
Dierberg , Santa Ynez, CA
The Dierberg family has owned the historically significant Hermannhof Vineyards in Missouri since 1974. After
a decade searching for the perfect spot to establish a wine estate that could grow classic varieties, they chose
Santa Barbaras Happy Canyon region in 1996. Under the Dierberg label, they also grow Chardonnay and Pinot
Noir in the Santa Maria Valley and Sta. Rita Hills AVAs.
The Dierbergs acquired their first cool climate vineyard in 1996, located at the western edge of the Santa Maria
Valley AVA just 13 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Dierberg Vineyard is a 160-acre property planted to 12
heritage clones of Pinot Noir and Wente selections of Chardonnay. In 2003, the Drum Canyon Vineyard in the
Sta. Rita Hills was planted to 70 acres of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.
The wines from the Dierberg properties have never been highly touted until winemaker Tyler Thomas joined
Dierberg in 2013. Tyler has a master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology from University of California at Davis,
and previously worked at North Coast wineries Donelan Family Wines and Hyde de Villaine. His affinity for the
Central Coast began long before joining Dierberg and Star Lane Vineyards. His first full-time harvest internship
was at Fiddlehead Cellars in Lompoc in 2003, but his choice to return came only after several meetings with
the Dierberg family.
I recently met with Tyler over dinner and tasted some of his current releases. It was an opportunity to learn of
his philosophy. Tyler told me, “I believe the world’s great wines have three things in common: they are
connected to a specific estate, they have a long term consistency, and they transcend their generation. I see
this potential at Dierberg Vineyards.”
Tyler has access to two precision-farmed vineyards, access to top viticulture talent, and the use of a 26,000-
square-foot winery. He muses, “Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are two varieties that can express themselves
across two different climate sites in Santa Barbara County. We are striving to do every thing we can to make
each wine more and more special.”
Tyler is a firm believer in making vineyard-focused wines, with minimal signs of winemaking technique. He has
a strong anti-house style approach, choosing to pursue wines with a sense of freshness rather than targeting
an ideal fruit, alcohol or acid profile.
Once Tyler was on board, I immediately noticed a trend away from density and rusticity to an increase in
balance, vibrancy and enjoyability of the Dierberg Vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Honestly, these
wines are now stunning. Dierberg Vineyard produces a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah from the Dierberg
Vineyard as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Drum Canyon Vineyard. The wines are distributed
nationally in 40+ states and are available from the tasting room in the Sta. Rita Hills. The Three Saints value
label is being discontinued. Visit www.dierbergvineyard.com.
The 2014 Pinot Noirs are refined and flavorful with perfumed aromatics and supple textures. Stem inclusion
was increased in 2014 to add textural refinement and improve age ability. The following wines were tasted with
Tyler and then re-tasted the following day.
2014 Dierberg Dierberg Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., $44. Aged 14 months in
French oak barrels, 20% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Lovely nose, offering aromas of black cherry,
spice, mushroom, fertile earth and subtle oak. Very charming, with mid weight flavors of blueberry and black
cherry that assume intensity over time in the glass. Supportive tannins with toasty oak in the background.
2014 Dierberg Drum Canyon Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., $52. Aged 14 months in
French oak barrels, 20% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Effusive aromas of black cherry and
spice. Broad in the mouth with mid weight plus assortment of dark red and black stone fruit and berry flavors.
Well-structured, with a good acid spine, admirable vibrancy, welcome integration of oak, and a lingering black
2014 Dierberg Drum Canyon Vineyard Ty Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 62 cases, $95. This wine is made from a
special block of clone 667 which showed more fullness and
complexity in the barrel. This block is located in rockier soils and
a perfect slope. Named after Jim and Mary Dierberg’s grandson,
this wine is the pinnacle of the Drum Canyon Vineyard.
Fermented with some stem inclusion. Aged 14 months in French
oak barrels, 60% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. An array of
dark fruit aromas are complimented with notes of warm spices and a bit
of oak-driven notes of anise and tobacco. Embraceable core of dark
cherry fruit with floral and brioche accents. Soft in the mouth, with a very
long black cherry imbued finish. A big but not cumbersome wine that will
need more cellaring for full oak integration.
Clos De La Tech, La Honda, CA
This winery is a very ambitious project established in 1994 by TJ Rodgers, founder and retired CEO of Cypress
Semiconductor, and his spouse, Valeta. The vineyards are exposed to extreme growing conditions and highaltitude
terrain. The significant highlights of Clos de la Tech are meticulous vine-by-vine farming, high-density
planting (4,150 vines per acre), low yields, and innovative viticulture equipment (the vineyards are so steep
they have to be farmed with a specially-designed tractor moved by cables. Vinification is done in an
underground, gravity-flow winery, employing whole cluster fermentations with native yeast, extended cold
soaks, foot crushing, malolactic fermentation on the lees, gravity transfer, and no filtration of the wines. Barrel
aging is carried out in caves tunneled deep into a ridge. The five wines produced are aged in Francois Frères
barrels with a significant percentage of new oak.
The Pinot Noirs come from three estate vineyards: Domaine du Docteur Rodgers, Domaine Valeta and
Domaine Lois Louise. 2012 was the first vintage produced entirely at the new, underground winery. The wines
have received considerable praise and high praise from the wine press, and the winery is one of the featured
ones at this year’s International Pinot Noir Celebration. Uniquely, each bottle other than the Santa Cruz
Mountains Estates blend features a chip on the neck of the bottle. The chip is code named Juno, designed by
Cypress Conductor’s design center in Japan.
These wines will appeal to a segment of pinotphiles who understand the style. The wines certainly will be liked
by those who relish seductively ripe, lush fruit and substantial structure. I found them a challenge to taste due
to the tannins. The wines have a gorgeous fruit core, but lack charm and elegance. They can be likened to a
slightly tough steak - flavorful but tough to chew. Normally a high percentage of whole cluster adds aromatic
and textural interest to the wines, but I did not find those characteristics in these Pinot Noirs. The high levels of
tannins are still present nearly five years after harvest, suggesting the wines may never be in balance. I tasted
the wines a day after opening and four days after opening and found no significant change in perceived
The wines are sold through a mailing list at www.closdelatech.com.
2012 Clos De La Tech Santa Cruz Mountains Estates Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH
3.56, TA 0.565, 1,483 cases, $45. Sourced from the three estate vineyards, primarily the steep, south-facing
hillsides. Extended cold soak, whole cluster fermentation with native yeast, foot crushing, malolactic
fermentation on lees, and gravity transfer. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 80% new, and bottled
Dark garnet color in the glass. The aromas are primarily oak fueled including cocoa, toast and
vanilla, and showing no change when the wine was tasted the following day. There is a mid weight plus core of
sappy, very ripe dark fruits including olalliberry and blackberry flavors backed by significant tannins that return
with noticeable intent on the finish. The wine is polished and luscious in the mouth, with some carryover of fruit
delight on the finish. There is a significant oak imprint that is unyielding four days after opening.
2012 Clos De La Tech Domaine Valeta “Sunny Slope” Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH
3.68, TA 0.55, 128 cases, $62. 3.5 acres planted on a 30 acre mountaintop site at 2,350 feet elevation in 1999.
A challenging site exposed to wind, cold and occasional snow. Soils are fractured weathered sandstone and
sandy loam. Clones are Dijon 113, 114, 115 and 777. Extended cold soak, whole cluster fermentation with
native yeast, malolactic fermentation on lees, and gravity transfer. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 90%
new, and bottled unfiltered.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Pleasing aromas of dark berries and
cherries lead to a mid weight plus core of blackberry and cassis flavors. Less sappy than some of the other
wines in this lineup, yet the fruit really ignites the palate. The tannins are foreboding and I wonder whether they
will ever resolve (unchanged from an opened bottle after 4 days).
2013 Domaine De La Tech Domaine Lois Louise “Twisty Ridge” Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.596, 166 cases, $62. This very steep 35-acre vineyard sits above the fog line and is
buffeted by strong maritime winds. The “Twisty Ridge” block runs along the upper ridge line at 1,700 feet and
features a thin layer of topsoil over fractured rock. Dijon clones. Extended cold soak, whole cluster
fermentation with native yeast, malolactic fermentation on lees and gravity transfer. The wine was aged 16
months in French oak barrels, 75% new, and bottled unfiltered.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Very
shy aromas of black cherry, fertile earth and nutty oak. A gorgeous core of perfectly ripened boysenberry and
blackberry fruits is framed by muscular tannins that are both fruit and oak in origin. Hard to ignore the enticing
and boisterous fruit, but the wine lacks vibrancy.
2012 Domaine De La Tech Domaine Lois Louise “Cote Sud” Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.571, 191 cases, $82. The “Cote Sud” block clings to the south-facing slope on the Lois
Louise Vineyard. Buffeted by strong winds from the Pacific Ocean 8 miles to the West., it features a thin layer
of topsoil over fractured rock. Dijon clones. Extended cold soak, whole cluster fermentation with native yeast,
foot crushing, malolactic fermentation on lees and gravity transfer. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels,
100% new, and bottled unfiltered.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. An abundance of blackberry jam
and spice aromas greet the drinker along with a bite of oak. There is an imposing attack of very ripe black fruits
that have length as they expand in the mouth. The texture is quite velvety, yet the tannins are burly and
astringent and imposing on the finish. The wine brings more appeal over time in the glass and shows more
finishing fruit persistence the following day from an opened bottle.
2012 Clos De La Tech Domaine du Docteur Rodgers, Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.75, TA 0.50, 85 cases, $102.
From a 1-acre vineyard in the town of Woodside, a cool, somewhat
protected site. Extended cold soak, whole cluster fermentation with
native yeast, foot crushing, malolactic fermentation on lees, and gravity
transfer. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 67% new.
dark garnet color in the glass. This wine has the most charm in the lineup
with a mid weighted, satiny core of dark red and purple berries
complimenting the nose of cherry and sous bois. A slight green herbal
note from the whole cluster is evident. There are modest tannins and
extraction and the wine finishes with purpose and juiciness.
Domaine Della, Santa Rosa, CA
The wines are produced and bottled by Domaine Della Dale, Santa Rosa, CA.. The website is
Winemaker David W. Hejl joined his sister and brother-in-law, Lee and Ernie LeRoy to found this winery in
2010. The name, Domaine Della, honors their mother, Della Winifred Dale. Heijl spent time at Kosta Browne
Winery and you see that influence in the style of the wines.
2015 Domaine Della Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
15.0% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.64, 150 cases, $60.
Sourced from three vineyards. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 45% new.
Dark garnet color in the glass.
An array of black fruit aromas ply the nose with added notes of rose and oak. A big boy wine not for the timid
with an onslaught of sweet black stone and berry fruits embellished with oak-driven notes of dark chocolate
and toast. The tannins and acidity keep the fruit in check, and the high alcohol is not evident when the wine is
cool, but the heavy fruit load obscures Russian River Valley typicality and is excessive for my taste. A good
transition wine for previous Cabernet drinkers.
2015 Domaine Della Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., pH 3.49, TA 0.62, 125 cases. $60. Sourced from
four vineyards. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 45% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. An
array of aromas appear over time in the glass, including boysenberry, blackberry and brewed tea. Mid weight
plus in style, with commendable vibrancy and lift and silky in the mouth. Flavors of black cherry and black
raspberry dominate, with a deft touch of oak in the background, refined tannins and a decent finish.
2015 Domaine Della Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
15.0% alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.62, 150
cases, $70. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 45% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The black
cherry and spice aromas reach for the sky over time in the glass. The silky mouthfeel seduces as does the
luscious mid weight essence of black cherry fruit. Very charming, with subtle oak highlights, gentle tannins and
a juicy, well-fruited finish.
2015 Domaine Della Terra De Promissio Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.8% alc, pH 3.46, TA 0.62, 125 cases, $70. Aged
15 months in French oak barrels, 55% new.
garnet color in the glass. Captivating aromas leap from the glass
including black cherry, black raspberry, caramel and wine cave.
An enchanting array of black fruits greets the palate with resolve,
dances lightly on the mid palate, and slides smoothly off the
finish. A signature Pinot that is very seductive in all ways including the
silk and satin texture. Amazingly giving at this young age.
Fogline Vineyards, Fulton, CA
All wines reviewed here were produced and bottled by Fogline Vineyards, Fulton, CA.
2016 Fogline Vineyards Swan Block Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 23 cases, $N/A.
oderately deep pinkish orange color in the glass. A clean, crisp and somewhat rich offering with aromas of
watermelon, blood orange, Rainier cherry and biscuit, and flavors of strawberry, orange peel, red cherry and
dried herbs. This wine has enough body to match with substantial foods.
2014 Fogline Vineyards Starscape Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.65, TA
0.65, 195 cases, $45. Release spring 2018. Vineyard is located in the Middle Reach sub region of the Russian
River Valley. Formerly Floodgate Vineyard. Clones 667, 115, 777 and Pommard.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. Aromas of black cherry partner with spice and toasty oak. Nice flow in the mouth with polished tannins,
showing good vibrancy and vivid flavors of black cherry and black raspberry, underlain with a compliment of
2014 Fogline Vineyards Hillside Block Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., 195 cases, pH 3.63, TA
0.603, $45. Release December 17, 2017. Estate Hillside Vineyard. Swan, Mt. Eden, Pommard and 115 clones.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose reluctantly offers hints of black cherry, underbrush and vanilla.
Rather closed, with a mid weight focus on blackest cherry flavor. Well-ripened fruit profile, with expressive
tannins and a slightly astringent finish. A slight bit more expressive when tasted the following day from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle but the tannins still stick out. This could benefit from cellaring for a few
years and my score may prove to be conservative.
2014 Fogline Vineyards Fogline Neighbors Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.62, 245
cases, $65. Release September 17, 2017. Sourced from Hillside Estate Vineyard and neighboring Sun Chase
and Janian vineyards. Clones 667, 777, 114, 115, Swan, Mt. Eden and Pommard.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. Aromas of underbrush, fertile earth and blackberry lead to a nuanced palate of flavors including black
fruits, spice, oak, black tea, flower and dark chocolate. Velvety in the mouth, with harmonious tannins and a
modest finish. Unchanged when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2014 Fogline Vineyards Bacchus Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.0% alc, pH 3.57, TA 0.64, $75, white wax
capsule, embossed bottle. Released. 50% whole cluster clone 114 from Janian Vineyard and 50% stemmed
Hillside Block (Estate) Swan, Mt. Eden, Pommard and 115 clones.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Very ripe
dark fruit aromas arrive over time in the glass. The good news is that the satiny texture is very seductive. The
regrettable news is that the fruit has a roasted character and there is some alcoholic warmth detectable. When
tasted the following day, the wine still showed extremely ripened, cooked fruit flavors. It doesn’t seem this wine
has anywhere to go.
Hirsch Vineyards, Cazedero, CA
All wines reviewed here were grown, produced and bottled by Hirsch Vineyards, Cazedero, CA.. The wines
show the imprint of noted winemaker Ross Cobb. Several of these wines need time to rouse themselves.
2014 Hirsch Vineyards San Andreas Fault Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.7% alc., $60. The San Andreas
Fault lies 2.5 miles from Hirsch Vineyards and defines the soils, topography and climate of the site.
red color in the glass. Aromas of blueberries, under brush and oak spice lead off. Light in weight, with delicate
and forward flavors of red cherry, cranberry, raspberry, red licorice and dried herbs. Nicely balanced, with
modest tannins and a red-fruited finish. A very elegant offering. A little more expressive when tasted the next
day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2014 Hirsch Vineyards Raschen Ridge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.6% alc., 312 cases, $85. Henry
Raschen (1854-1937) was a painter of the American West and lived on a ranch that is now Hirsch Vineyards.
From the highest elevation of the vineyards with merging heat and coolness, uplifting and erosion.
light garnet color in the glass. Inviting aromas of dark pie cherries, underbrush and fertile earth. Plenty of attack
and intensity to satisfy, with flavors of blueberry, black cherry and Damsel plum. More savory and earthy than
fruity with temperate tannins and a finish of exceptional length. The long finish really stood out when the wine
was tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2014 Hirsch Vineyards West Ridge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.7% alc., 360 cases, $85.
garnet color in the glass. Initial aromas of mulch and terra cotta lead to aromas of cherry, black raspberry and
spice. Discreetly concentrated, earth-kissed flavors of blueberry and cherry with an expansive mouthfeel.
There is a note of iron and green pepper as well. Inviting harmony, with firm but integrated tannins, a silky
texture, and a modestly generous finish.
2014 Hirsch Vineyards East Ridge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
12.5% alc., 528 cases, $85. A selection of the
very best barrels from the three oldest blocks on the ridge.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Upon
opening the nose is quite primary. The following day the nose remained shy but better, offering aromas of
purple berries and a hint of oak. A more masculine wine, with a firm tannic backbone, and mid weight flavors of
purple and black fruits. Quite sappy and intense and long in the mouth, but still withdrawn. Much more
expressive when tasted the following day showing an intense attack and mid palate presence. A little green,
unripe character shows in the background.
2014 Hirsch Vineyards Reserve Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., 768 cases, $85. A selection of the
best barrels from the oldest and finest vineyard blocks at Hirsch Vineyards.
Moderately light garnet color in the
glass. The nose entices with aromas of cherry and spice. Provocative flavors of cherry, purple berry and spice
that are rich and expansive on the palate, finishing with purpose and persistence. This wine is more welcoming
than others, yet has firm fruit tannins that need more time in bottle to assimilate. The very long finish was
striking when the wine was tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2014 Hirsch Vineyards Block 8 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
alc., 360 cases, $85. Sourced from a western ridge with a singular
personality. The site contains more iron oxide soil unique within Hirsch
Vineyards. David Hirsch calls it his Grand Cru block.
garnet color in the glass. The fruit in this wine is riper and this wine
shows the most grace and charm. Aromas of muddled black cherry, Dr.
Pepper and mocha. Mid weight, earthy flavors of purple berries are
framed by defined tannins for the long term. Smooth and gracious on the
palate, with impeccable balance and a thread of “minerality” that adds
Kanzler Family Vineyards, Sebastopol, CA
Kanzler Family Vineyards was established in 1996 in the Sebastopol Hills sub region of the Russian River
Valley at the site of a former apple orchard. The first harvest from the 14.5-acre vineyard was 2000 and early
on grapes were sold to Landmark Vineyards, Flowers Vineyards 7 Winery, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery,
Kosta Browne, Rhys Vineyards and CL Wines. Currently, they hold back more of the grapes for their own label,
but still sell to Kosta Browne, Lynmar and Rivers-Marie.
The Kanzler family leases the Walker Station Vineyard, 3.2 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay located in a
cool area southwest of Forestville.
Alex Kanzler was 10-years-old when the vineyard was first planted. He followed a winemaking career ofter
college in New Zealand, Oregon and back to Sonoma County. He assisted with winemaking at Kanzler
beginning in 2011, and became the head winemaker in 2014.
A Rose and Chardonnay were introduced with the 2016 and 2015 vintages respectively. Current production is
3,500 to 5,000 cases.
All wines reviewed here were produced and bottled by Kanzler Family Vineyards, Sebastopol, CA.. Kanzler
Vineyards was recently featured in the PinotFile: www.princeofpinot.com/article/1954/. The wines are sold
primarily through a mailing list.
2016 Kanzler Vineyards Russian River Valley Rosé of Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.16, 167
cases, $26. Released April 1, 2017. 72% Kanzler Estate, 20% Walker Station, 4% Umino and 4%
Mes Filles. Aged 3 months in neutral French oak barrels and gently filtered prior to bottling. Crafted
using the saignée method where juice is bled from a fermentation tank and fermented apart as a
Pretty in pink color in the glass. Soaring aromas of red strawberry, blood orange and peach
that hold up over time in the glass. Welcoming in the mouth with fresh, crisp flavors of blood
orange, Rainier cherry, apricot and white nectarine. Impeccable balance, finishing dry with some
2015 Kanzler Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.55, 481 cases, $56. Released April 1, 2017.
Sourced from grapes grown west of Sebastopol: 60% Kanzler Estate, 20% Mes Filles, 20% Umino, 5% Walker
Station. Early pick date in this vintage so less whole cluster inclusion (only 5%). 3 to 5-day cold soak, native
and inoculated yeast fermentations. Basket pressed. Aged 14 months on the lees in French oak barrels, 50%
new, and finished 1 month in stainless steel.
Dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of blackest cherry, black
raspberry and clay loam lead off. An attacking charge of purple and black fruits aim to please and the flavors
last and last. The mouthfeel is velveteen, the tannins blend in inconspicuously, and only the slightest hint of
vanilla suggests an oak presence. Can be drunk now or aged for several years.
2015 Kanzler Estate Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
alc., $78. Release September 1, 2017. Grapes exclusively from Kanzler
Vineyard in the Sebastopol Hills of Russian River Valley.
garnet color in the glass. The nose is really engaging, with bright aromas
of blackberry, blueberry-pomegranate, spice and underbrush. Excellent
grip and intensity in a mid weight plus, ripely fruited style. More sap,
more flavor delivery, but also more apparent alcohol compared to the
RRV bottling. Satiny in the mouth with ingrained tannins, satisfying
acidity and a notable finish. Undoubtedly, this wine will benefit from more
time in the cellar.
2015 Kanzler Walker Station Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., $56. Release
September 1, 2017.This 3-acre vineyard is planted in Goldridge soil in the Green Valley of Russian River
Dark garnet color in the glass. Shy aromas of black fruits and earthy flora. A huge wine with an
explosion of boysenberry and black raspberry sappy fruit that floods the palate. The tannins are majestic as
well but the wine has some tension to counteract the prodigious tannins. Oak is integrated. Both tannins and a
little alcoholic warmth stick out on the finish. A bit over-the-top for my taste.
Lucienne, Soledad, CA
Lucienne is a winery within a winery - an estate producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay within Hahn Estates.
Owned by Nicholas Lucien Hahn, this winery is based in a separate facility. The name is from Nicholas Hahn’s
middle name Lucien, but in the feminine form to honor the mountain range where the winery’s vineyards are
planted. Santa Lucia was a saint who wore a crown of candles on her head and that crown is depicted on the
Paul Clifton, who gained his cool climate winemaking stripes at Bernardus Winery and Byington Winery, began
at Hahn Estates in 2003 and soon became the Director of Winemaking.
Paul told me the following about the 2015 vintage. “The first three months of 2015 were a mirror of 2014 but
towards the end of April below average temperatures remained over the Santa Lucia Highlands region into
June. Gusty jet streams caused upwelling of very cold water in Monterey Bay. The wind and cold water
impacted the Salinas Valley day and nighttime temperatures. As most vineyards were in bloom during that
period, the cooler temperatures caused a lengthy set period. Needless to say, conditions were not ideal. We
estimated that Pinot Noir yields were down 25%-30% compared to our 5-year average. The clusters were small
with very small berries - just what growers cry about and winemakers rave about.”
He continued, “We also experienced Pinot leaf curl and stuck caps, two conditions I have rarely seen. With
Pinot leaf curl the growing shoot tips and juvenile leaves were frosted and dried up. These changes were
probably weather related. Thankfully, it was isolated to only certain clones on the estate properties and not
every vine had it. Stuck caps refer to the cap on the pistil not completely falling off. This doesn’t allow the
anthers to release and fertilize the berry. The unfertilized berry develops no seed and the berry either falls off
(shatter) or remains on as a very small ‘shot’ berry. The cause is due to moisture that moved through the
vineyard at this stage of development. The result is a lighter crop due to shatter.”
Harvest in the Santa Lucia Highlands was the earliest the winery had experienced and one of the lightest crops
as well. Harvest started in mid-August and finished at the end of September for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Pinot Noir yields were 1.4 tons per acre and Chardonnay yields 2.9 tons per acre. Harvest was finished before
it normally starts. Paul remarked, “The accountants and growers are cringing at the light crop, but the
winemakers and consumers will love it.”
The 2015 Lucienne Pinot Noirs show impressive balance, polished textures and the right amount of oak to
temper the eager fruit. The wines are still young and with superb balance should develop further over time in
bottle (all the wines tasted better hours after opening and the following day). These are the best group of Pinot
Noirs I have tasted from Lucienne to date. Visit www.luciennevineyards.com. One Hahn Family Wines Pinot
Noir bottling is included here as well. All wines are produced and bottled by Hahn Estates or Lucienne
Vineyards, Soledad, CA. from certified sustainable vineyards.
2014 Hahn SLH Gabrielle Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $sold out. A barrel selection of the
best of the vintage from estate vineyards. The name is a tribute to second generation Philip Hahn’s mother,
Gaby, who along with father Nicholas founded Hahn Estate.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of
black cherry, raspberry a hint of toasty oak are followed in the mouth with a mid weight core of flavorful Bing
cherry fruit. Nicely balanced and forward drinking, with easygoing tannins and a compliment of toasty oak in
2015 Lucienne Doctor’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.57, 1,530
cases, $50. This vineyard is located near the center of the Santa Lucia Highlands 520 feet above sea level.
Harvest Brix 24º-26º. Clones 667, 777, 115, 113, Pommard and Jardini. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels,
40% new, 60% neutral.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Shy aromas of black grape, black cherry,
pipe smoke and wood. Luscious and bold on the palate yet not jammy. Flavors of black fruits, black tea and
toast. Polished, with a satiny mouthfeel and nicely integrated tannins. This wine shows the most concentration
and oak overlay of the four 2015 Lucienne Pinot Noirs. The wine needs a little more time to rouse itself.
2015 Lucienne Hook Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.54, 135 cases,
$50. The farthest south of Hahns four SLH vineyards, this vineyard is least affected by the cooling influence of
winds from Monterey Bay. Harvest Brix 25º. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 40% new and 60% neutral.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Shy aromas of red and black fruit compote and graham. Mid weight flavors
of cherry and spice have exceptional lift and length. Very polished, with integrated oak highlights. The wine
sported more aromatic interest and flavor expression when tasted the following day from a previously opened
and re-corked bottle.
2015 Lucienne Smith Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.60, TA 0.57, 2,230 cases, $50. This
vineyard sits at the highest elevation of Hahn’s vineyards.
Harvest Brix 24º-26º. Calera and Jardini clones. Aged 15 months
in French oak barrels, 40% new, 60% neutral.
aromas of cherries and spice. This wine has a noticeable
juiciness and spring in its step. Fresh, clean flavor of dark red,
spiced cherry in a middleweight style with a luxurious, comforting texture
like a Nike Dry Fit shirt. Complimentary notes of mocha and vanilla join
the tasty fruit flavors. The finish is extended and generous, and the final
impression is one of thankful harmony.
2015 Lucienne Lone Oak Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.67, TA
0.55, 644 cases, $50. This wine is from a 20-acre vineyard located at the northern end of the Santa
Lucia Highlands. It experiences the strongest maritime influence of all of Hahn’s vineyards and the
coolest growing season. Harvest Brix 24º-25.5º. Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 40% new and
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Enticing aromas of cherry, red berry, spice and toast.
The delicious dark cherry core really alerts the taste buds. Very polished, even slinky, with a subtle
swirl of toasty oak and brown spices. The gossamer tannins make for seductive drinking and the persistent
finish is the most striking of the four 2015 Lucienne Pinot Noirs. This wine is quintessential Santa Lucia
Highlands Pinot Noir.
Reichwage Winery, Sebastopol, CA
The Twin Hills Ranch in Sebastopol was established in 1942-1947 by Darrel Hurst who planted mostly
Gravenstein apples. The name, “Twin Hills,” refers to the two main ridges that run through the Sebastopol Hills
sub region, Pleasant Hill and Spring Hill (aka Sexton Hill). During WW II, Twin Hill Ranch supplied dried apples
to the troops. In 1998, Darrel Hurst passed away and his son, Ben Hurst, inherited the Twin Hills property. The
following year, the first vineyard parcels at Twin Hills were planted to clone 777 and Swan selection Pinot Noir,
and the grapes were sold to W.H. Smith Winery of Napa and Chasseur Wines of Sebastopol. In 2005, the
expansion of the Russian River Valley AVA south incorporated the Twin Hills Vineyard and the surrounding
Sebastopol Hills area into the AVA.
In 2006, the Twin Hills property was divided in half with the southern portion sold to David Bruce Winery in Los
Gatos. An additional 4 acres of clone ‘828” were planted by Arturo Robledo. Ben Hurst sold the Twin Hills
property to the Palk family of Sebastopol in 2010. In 2014, the Reichwage family acquired the Twin Hills
property from the Palks. At the time of purchase, the property had dilapidated buildings and serious amounts of
junk scattered about. Beneath the clutter, Max saw a hilltop property with ideal soils for grape growing and
Max has farmed the orchards and vineyards with organic materials only. The 8 acres of apple orchards were
USDA certified organic in 2016 and the vineyards will likely be certified soon as well.
The property is now 20 acres, with 5 acres of established, dry-farmed Pinot Noir plantings and 4 acres of
newer 2015 plantings including four clones of heirloom Pinot Noir and a .25 acre of Gamay Noir.
The vines are planted in Goldridge sandy loam at an elevation of 350-400 feet. Only 9 miles from the Pacific
Ocean, the chilly microclimate is influenced by maritime cold air and fog.
Max Reichwage established the Reichwage Winery in 2014. The three wines reviewed here are Reichwage
Winery’s inaugural releases from the Twin Hills Vineyard. Visit www.reichwage.com to purchase wine.
2016 Reichwage Winery Sonoma Coast Rosé of Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., $24. After foot
stomping, the grapes were whole cluster pressed. The juice was fermented with native yeasts in
used French oak barrels and allowed to age on the lees for 6 months.
Light apricot color in the
glass. Absolutely wonderful nose offering aromas of nectarine, strawberry, Rainier cherry and
melon. Very accommodating, with fresh flavors of white nectarine, apricot, apple and cantaloupe. A
bit of tannin adds texture and the lip-smacking finish shows good tenacity.
2015 Reichwage Winery Twin Hills Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
alc., $48. Produced and bottled by Reichwage Winery, Sebastopol, CA..
Grapes were fermented with native yeasts, 15% whole cluster, aged 18
months in French oak barrels, 12% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Dark garnet color in the glass. The nose is primary even when sampled
from a previously opened bottle the following day. Much more expressive
on the palate yet still reserved, with a mid weight plus core of sweet
cherry and blackberry fruits that are somewhat sappy. Earthy and savory,
with substantial tannins, a spring in its step, and a generous, intenselyfruity
finish. This wine needs more time in the bottle to rouse itself.
Sonoma-Loeb, Sonoma, CA
Chappellet acquired Sonoma-Loeb in 2011, but Chappellet winemaker Phillip Corallo-Titus had made the
Sonoma-Loeb wines since 1990. Chappellet’s renowned vineyard manager, Dave Pirio, was added to the
Sonoma-Loeb team. Phillip and Dave have worked together for more than a quarter of a century. Together,
they added new vineyards and vineyard blocks to the winegrowing program and switched many of Sonoma-
Loeb’s contracts to acreage contracts allowing more control. This allowed the addition of new small-lot wines to
the Sonoma-Loeb portfolio.
Phillip made subtle winemaking changes as well, including picking a little earlier to preserve more natural
acidity and achieving slightly lower alcohol levels in the wines. He reduced oxidative techniques such as lees
stirring and prolonged malolactic fermentation. A new barrel chai was finished in 2013, and barrel fermentations
now take place at very low temperatures. Philip says, “We reevaluated everything to see if we could make the
wines even more vibrant and delicious and applying the same dedicated focus on quality that had always
I believe the Chardonnays have been taken to another level (see the reviews later in this issue). The two Pinot
Noir examples reviewed here show very ripe fruit picked at high Brix, with dense fruit extraction, and Visit the
winery website at www.sonoma-loeb.com.
2015 Sonoma-Loeb Bateman Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.76, TA 0.55, 169 cases, $60.
Vineyard is located in Graton in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley AVA. It was planted in 1999 to Dijon
777 and 115 clones in Goldridge soil. Harvest Brix 26,8º. Winemaker is Phillip Corallo-Titus, the winemaker for
Sonoma-Loeb and Chappellet since 1990.
Very dark, inky purple color in the glass. The nose lacks aromatic
inspiration, offering only a hint of cassis along with oak-driven aromas of dark chocolate and toast. A huge fruit
load greets the palate, with a mixed bag of purple and black fruits. Tannins and acidity are in harmony, but the
wine lacks nuance and interest. Unchanged when tasted the following day from a previously opened and recorked
bottle. Hard to know this is Pinot. May be a good transition wine for ex-Cab drinkers.
2015 Sonoma-Loeb Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 1,430 cases, pH 3.75, TA
0.61, 1,430 cases, $40. Dijon clones 667, 777 and 115. Harvest Brix 25.2º. Wild and inoculated yeast
fermentation, cap managed with punch downs and pump overs, and aged 11 months in French oak barrels.
Dark garnet color in the glass. Hard to find descriptors for the nose as there is little find other than a whiff of
oak, even when checked the following day from a previously opened bottle. The wine offers a load of purple
and black fruits with a green thread in the background. Difficult to be highly complimentary other than the
tannins are supportive. The wine lacks a Pinot message.
Three Sticks, Sonoma, CA
These 2015 vintage Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays represent winemaker Bob Cabral’s first releases (Cabral had
a 17-year tenure as winemaker for Williams Selyem before joining Three Sticks). Additional fall releases from
estate vineyards include a Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay ($55), a Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir ($70),
a Walala Vineyard Pinot Noir ($70) and the first of the winery’s Cuvée series - the 2015 Cuvée Eva Marie Pinot
Noir from One Sky Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain ($90). The wines are allocated to a mailing list.
The winery has partnered with El Dorado Kitchen and introduced new food and wine pairing experiences at
Three Sticks at The Adobe in downtown Sonoma. A private luncheon ($200 per guest) and small bites pairing
experience ($85 per guest) are offered Monday through Saturday for groups of two to eight by reservation.
Traditional wine tasting is also offered throughout the week by appointment, starting at $35 per person. Three
Sticks at The Adobe is one of Sonoma’s oldest and longest occupied residences and remains one of the last
standing buildings from California’s Mexican Period. Its transformation into the Three Sticks tasting room was
directed by noted San Francisco designer Ken Fulk. Visit www.threestickswines.com.
2015 Three Sticks The James Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.49, TA 0.61, 732 cases, $65.
Released February 7, 2017. Grapes sourced from Rita’s Crown, La Rinconada and Sanford & Benedict
vineyards. Martini, 777, “828,” and Mt. Eden clones. 25% whole cluster fermentation in open-top fermenters.
Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 55% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Bright aromas of black
cherry, black raspberry, fertile earth and spice. Satisfying mid weight flavors of blueberry and pomegranate with
a touch of spice and toasted oak. An earthy undertone pervades the background. The mouthfeel is silky and
the wine finishes on a spirited cherry note with just a hint of dry oak tannins.
2015 Three Sticks Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., pH 3.53, TA 0.58, 283 cases, $65. Released
February 7, 2017. Grapes sourced from vineyards north of Sebastopol. Clones 777 and “828.” 22% whole
cluster fermentation in open- top fermenters. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 50% new.
dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of Bing cherry, fruit bin and seasoned oak. The core of purple and black
berries and black cherry is modest on the attack but satisfying. The wine is giving all it has but is not assertive.
There is noticeable oak overlay that occupies the somewhat lengthy finish.
2015 Three Sticks PFV Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.52, TA 0.60, 658 cases, $65.
Released February 7, 2017. 29% whole cluster fermentation in open-top fermenters. Aged 11 months in French
oak barrels, 60% new. Swan, 115, 667, 777 and “828” clones. Sourced from vineyards owned and farmed by
Three Sticks’ owner Bill Price and his farming company Price Family Vineyards. Gap’s Crown, Walala, Dupoint
and Durell vineyards make up this blend.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of blackest cherry,
underbrush and new oak lead. Well structured, yet offering a gracious character, with mid weight flavors of
black raspberry and purple grape. Nicely composed, with an oak thread in the background and some length
and grip on the finish.
More Pinot Noir
2014 Anaba Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.55, TA 0.62, 395
cases, $52. Produced and bottled by Anaba Wines, Sonoma, CA.. Pisoni selection. Harvest Brix 24.3º. Destemmed,
4 to 5-day cold soak, fermented in stainless steel, gentle pump over and punch downs during
fermentation. Aged 18 months in French oak barrels, 20% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of
mushrooms on the grill, earthy flora and cherry-nut cake lead off. Very elegant and cordial, with silky tannins
backing a mid weight core of fresh cherry fruit. Very polished and charming, with a good spring in its step.
There is an oak sidecar of note that is not intrusive, and the black cherry finish is notable.
2014 Fallon Place Herbitage Vineyard Los Carneros Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.718, 60 cases,
$36. Winemaker and proprietor Cory Michal. Grapes are a single clone sustainably grown from a single
vineyard in the northern Carneros AVA. Aged 18 months in neutral French oak barrels.
Aromas of black cherry,
dark strawberry, earthy flora and subtle oak. Very delicate, easygoing and elegant in style, even a bit shallow
on the mid palate and finish. Juicy, with flavors of red cherry, spice and dried herbs. A solid quaff that lacks
2015 Frank Family Vineyards Lewis Vineyard Reserve Napa Carneros Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.56, TA
0.59, 1,000 cases, $. Produced and bottled by Frank Family Vineyards, Calistoga, CA.. Clones 115, 667 and
777. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 50% new and 50% once-filled.
Dark garnet color in the glass.
Aromas of dark fruits and sweet oak lead off. Full-bodied and Syrah-like in concentration, with a no holds
barred charge of purple and black fruits that thoroughly saturate the palate. The tannins are well matched and
the finish is fruit-filled yet modest. The flavor profile is similar to the regular Carneros bottling, but ramped up
fruit sap and oak. When sampled the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle, oak notes of
dark chocolate and coffee were prevalent. A wine for Pinot hedonists with a thing for oak.
2015 Fulcrum Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 152 cases, $60. Produced and bottled by Fulcrum Wines, Napa,
CA. In tasting room prerelease - full release October 2017. Pommard and 113. 100% Donnelly Creek Vineyard. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 33% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Infatuating aromas of cherry, spice and earth tones. Delicious
flavors of black cherry, black raspberry and candy apple. Modest tannins with a silky mouthfeel and the
slightest oak enhancement. A very pleasant wine that is forward and giving, and an ideal everyday wine. The
tenth vintage from Fulcrum and the wines keep reaching for greatness.
2014 Kitá Hilliard Bruce Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
12.8% alc., pH 3.80, TA 0.567, 217 cases, $55.
Produced and bottled by Chumash Cellars, Lompoc, CA.. Harvest Brix 23.0º. Aged 18 months in French oak
barrels, 20% new, 80% neutral.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, cranberry and
marzipan lead to a light weight styled wine with flavors of cherry gum drop, red berries and savory herbs. The
fruit tastes riper than the harvest Brix would indicate. Silky in the mouth, with a pleasing cherry themed finish.
2015 Lombardi Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.57, TA 0.59, 200 cases. $46. Grapes sourced
from Petaluma Gap vineyards (Griffin’s Lair, Sun Chase and Terra de Promissio). Calera selection, clones are
Pommard, 667 and 777. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 18% new. Winemaker is Cabell Coursey.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. The nose is foresty upon opening (earth, wood and mulch aromas),
with very pleasant aromas of black cherry fruit and spice arriving over time in the glass. Silky smooth in the
mouth, with a sumptuous core of tasty blueberry and blackberry fruits that linger with intent on the finish.
Discreetly concentrated, with suave tannins and balanced acidity. Considerably more appealing when tasted
the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2014 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 1,100 cases, $56, screwcap.
Produced and bottled by MacRostie Winery & Vineyards, Sonoma, CA.. Vineyard is owned by Steve
MacRostie and his partners Nancy and Tony Lilly. The vines are planted in sparse volcanic soils and must
withstand the maritime breezes off the Pacific Ocean. Vines planted in 1998 and 2000. Dijon and Pommard
clones. The grapes were gently de-stemmed into open-top fermenters, 3-day cold soak, inoculated yeast
fermentation, cap management with a combination of pump overs and punch downs. Aged 10 months in
French oak barrels.
Light ruby red color in the glass. Cozy aromas of cherry, spice and worn leather. Elegant in
the mouth in a middleweight style, offering an array of juicy, dark red fruit flavors accented with toasty, smoky
oak. Silky and easy to cozy up to, with a finish that lingers appealingly.
2015 Migration Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., 12,840 cases, $40. Aged 10 months in French
oak barrels, 40% new, 60% neutral.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Shy, but pleasant aromas of darker red
and black fruits with a hint of tobacco oak. Sappy and somewhat dense core of very ripe fruit including blackest
cherry and black raspberry flavors framed by firm tannins. The wine’s best feature is the silky texture. A bit
moody and reclusive, even when tasted the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2015 Presqu’ile Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., pH 3.75, TA 0.56, $42. Produced and bottled by
Presqu’ile Winery, Santa Maria, CA.. Sourced from both the Western and Northeastern areas of the Santa
Maria Valley (50% Bien Nacido, 30% Presqu’ile and 20% Solomon Hills vineyards). Clones are Mt. Eden, 777,
Pommard, 667 and 115. 32% whole cluster fermented. Aged 17 months in French oak barrels, 20% new.
Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Inviting aromas of black cherry, tar,
tobacco, dried rose petal and toasty oak. An explosion of delicious purple grape, boysenberry and tobacco
flavor greets the palate and carries through to a lingering finish. Silky in the mouth with accommodating
balance. Very nice whole cluster compliment in this wine.
2015 Sarah’s Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 160 cases, $38. Sourced
from White Sage Ranch and Tondre Grapefield. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Light ruby red color in the glass. Aromas and flavors of cherry and sandalwood in a light to mid
weight styled wine that is juicy and vibrant. Hints of savory herbs and tobacco oak ply the
background. Elegant tannins make for early and easy drink ability.
2015 Sarah’s Vineyard Santa Clara Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 557 cases, $25. Produced and bottled by
Sarah’s Vineyard, Gilroy, CA.. Estate grown on Dwarf Oak
Vineyard. Clones 667, 777, 115 and “DRC.” 100% destemmed
and whole berry native and inoculated yeast
fermented in small lots, punched down by hand, and aged
11 months in French oak barrels, 10% new.
garnet color in the glass. A lighter weight offering, with
pleasing aromas of cherry, raspberry, sandalwood and forest path, and
flavors of confected cherry drop, raspberry and brown spice. Clean and
harmonious, with gentle tannins, gossamer oak, and some finish. Easy
to like and a very good value.
2015 Sean Thackrey Andromeda Devil’s Gulch Ranch Marin County Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 329 cases, $60. Produced and
bottled by Sean Thackrey, Bolinas, CA. Grower Mark Pasternak
only sells Pinot Noir grapes to Sean Thackrey and Dan Goldfield
for vineyard-designated bottlings. Devil’s Gulch Vineyard is
located above Nicasio and is one of the cooler and windier Pinot
Noir growing sites in California. Yields are small due to wind that
interferes with pollination, often less than 1 ton per acre. Thackrey aims
for a wine “that is uniquely expressive and one that is wilder and more
mysterious and not meant to be light and simple.” Aged 13 months in
neutral French oak barrels.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. A
very interesting nose with uncommon aromas of peppermint basil, herbcoated
black cherries, peppered beef and earthy flora. Rather bold in a
mid weight plus style, with generous flavors of black cherry, blackberry and brewed tea. Plush in feel, with
commendable balance and with a density that does not sacrifice charm. A truly unique wine from a challenging
site crafted by a contemplative winemaker.
2015 Trader Joe’s Lot #79, Platinum Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 1,450 cases, $14.99. Vinted
and bottled by Carneros Cellars, Napa, CA.
Upon opening, the nose is
effusive with blueberry pie aroma but develops more oak notes of anise and tobacco over time in the glass.
Soft and satiny in the mouth, with a decent attack of blueberry-pomegranate fruit flavor underlain with an
earthy, mushroom riff typical of Carneros Pinot. A pleasant but not special wine, with adequate backing tannins
and a modest finish.
Even More Pinot Noir
Nga Waka, Martinborough, New Zealand
Established at Martinborough in 1988 by founder and winemaker, Roger Parkinson (pictured below), Nga Waka
is a family owned winegrower producing small amounts of Martinborough wine from estate grown grapes. The
name is from Nga Waka A Kupe (The Canoes of Kupe). There are three hills that lie side by side like upturned
canoes form the backdrop for the town of Martinborough. Legend has it that the hills were formed by the three
canoes of the Polynesian explorer Kupe that were carried inland by an earthquake and came to rest in the
valley behind Martinborough.
The Three Canoes and Three Paddles wines have recently become available in the United States through
Canoe Wine Imports, Sebastopol, CA, and are worth seeking out. Visit www.ngawaka.co.nz.
2015 Nga Waka Three Paddles Martinborough New Zealand Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.69, TA
0.55, RS < 1 g/L, $20, screwcap. Harvest Brix 23º-25º. 10% whole cluster. Total maceration 24 days.
Aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 19% new. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
color in the glass. Fruit aromas of black cherry and pomegranate are accompanied by savory notes
of undergrowth and tobacco leaf. An easy drinking middleweight wine with good attack and finish,
offering flavors of black cherry and blackberry. Charming, with silky tannins and noticeable toasty
2015 Nga Waka Three Canoes Lease Block Martinborough New Zealand Pinot Noir
14.0% alc., pH 3.57,TA 0.60, RS < 1 g/L, $40.
Harvest Brix 25.2º. 10% whole cluster, total maceration 24 days. Aged 12
months in French oak barrels, 28% new. Vineyard planted in 1999 and
this wine was sourced from a 1.8-acre block of Pinot Noir.
dark garnet color in the glass. The aromas of black raspberry, blackberry,
fertile earth and clay arrive over time in the glass and become quite
enticing. Mid weight plus core of blackberry fruit is accented with notes of
spice and ash. Well-structured in the typical Martinborough manner, with
a generous finish that urges another sip. The wine picks up interest over
time in the glass, and is an age worthy, exceptional offering.
Transparent Pricing of Pinot Noir
California wine prices continue to rise along with the increasing overall quality. High double digit and even triple
digit prices for domestic Pinot Noir are no longer a rarity.
A winery in Oregon, Alit, exposes the cost to make a bottle of Pinot Noir. Proprietor Mark Tarlov is selling his
wines direct to consumer at a relatively lower price, offering a transparent look at what exactly a bottle of good
Pinot Noir costs to produce. Alit Pinot Noir price is not based on scores or scarcity, but is sold at what the
winery costs to make the wine, plus a small profit for the winery. The winery claims its wine would cost 3X as
much if priced and sold in the traditional way. The 2015 alit Pinot Noir is sold only online in 3-packs with 3-day
air shipping anywhere in the U.S. included at www.alit.wine. A Rosé and Brut Champagne are also offered.
For the 2015 alit Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, grapes were sourced from dry-farmed vines grown in volcanic
soils. The wine was fermented with wild yeasts with 100% whole cluster, with no additives and aged 12 months
in French oak barrels. The vintage is not displayed on the wine’s labels.
The breakdown of production costs per bottle: (1) all-natural farming and fruit - $5.66, (2) Alit’s winegrowing
and winemaking team of five - $2.14, (3) winery and equipment - $3.31, (4) French oak barrels - $1.11, and (5)
recyclable packaging - $2.88. Total cost - $15.10. Gross profit (45%) - $12.35. Final cost $27.45 plus S&H.
The packaging is very impressive with three bottles wrapped in paper in their own embossed box. Each bottle
is rather heavy and closed with wax. I don’t have technical information.
2015 Alit Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., $27.45. Inaugural release from an organically
farmed vineyard planted in volcanic soil. Wild yeast and whole cluster fermentation.
garnet color in the glass. Leading off are aromas of red cherry and dried herbs. Black cherry and
raspberry flavors are embellished with flower and herbal notes. Lightly fruited and forward drinking,
with fine-grain tannins that create textural interest but stick out a bit at this young age. More
enjoyable when tasted the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
A few other value priced Oregon Pinot Noirs from Ransom Wines & Spirits are reviewed here. Ransom has
been producing small lots of Oregon wines since the 1999 vintage. Vintner Tad Seestedt is the one-man
operation behind the label. The name, Ransom, was chosen to reflect the debt incurred to start the business.
The wines are in retail distribution.
2015 Jigsaw Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., pH 3.80, TA 0.50, 4,149 cases, $19.99,
screwcap. Produced and bottled by Ransom Wine Company, Sheridan, OR.. Grapes sourced from seven
vineyards, primarily in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Harvest Brix 23.2º. Grapes 100% de-stemmed, into 1.5-ton
open-top and large close-top fermenters. Average cold soak 4 days, inoculated and wild yeast fermentation for
seven days with hand punchdowns. Aged 11 months, filtered and bottled.
Moderate garnet color in the glass.
Very little aromatic interest, with only subtle notes of fertile earth, candy corn, vanilla and floridity. Slightly
confected mid weight black cherry and cranberry flavors framed by noticeable tannins, finishing somewhat
2014 Machine Breaker We The People Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
13.1% alc., pH
3.35, TA 0.65, 1,829 cases, $29.99, screwcap. Produced and bottled by Machine Breaker,
Sheridan, OR., a side project of Tad Seestedt, the mastermind of Ransom Wines and Spirits.
Sourced from ungrafted vines on their own roots that were dry farmed. Six different vineyard
sources, multiple clones. 100% de-stemmed into 1.5-ton fermenters. 2 to 4-day cold soak,
inoculated and wild yeast fermentation, hand punchdowns, aged 11 to 18 months in 2-year-old
French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry,
raspberry, underbrush and nutty oak lead off. Light to mid weight in style, with a flavorful fruit core
of cherry and raspberry with a thread of dry herbs in the background. Nicely balanced, with modest tannins and
a short finish.
2013 Ransom Selection Eola-Amity Hills Oregon Pinot Noir
12.6% alc., pH 3.45, TA 0.62, 1,200 cases,
$27.99. Produced and bottled by Ransom Wine Company, Sheridan, OR.. Low yields, own-rooted and nonirrigated
mature vines, all free run juice. Sourced from four vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills. Harvest Brix
22.4º. 100% de-stemmed, 4-day cold soak, inoculated and wild yeast fermentation for average of 7 days with
hand punchdowns. Aged 12 to 16 months in two-year-old French oak barrels. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. The nose offers primarily stemmy, woody, and vegetal aromas with only a
hint of cherry fruit. Light to mid weight flavors of red and purple berries with what can be described only as a
grape popsicle taste. Also earthy and woody. The tannins are tame, the texture is appealing silky and there is
some persistence on the finish. I just could not embrace the flavor of this wine.
One more wine to consider and recommended.
2016 Broadley Willamette Valley Oregon Pinot Noir
alc., $20. Sourced from several vineyards along with added
estate fruit and vinified as a forward drinking, value priced
wine. I tasted this wine with winemaker Morgan Broadley
while visiting the Willamette Valley in late July 2017. 100% destemmed
fruit. Wild yeast fermentation and aged 10 months in
neutral French oak barrels.
Moderately light garnet color in the
glass. Giving aromas of dark cherry and rose petal. Light to mid weight
cherry and red berry fruit core with seamless oak backup, easy going
tannins, and a juicy finish. Lively, fresh and open. Ideal for summer
Sips of Recently Tasted Domestic Chardonnay
2016 Decoy Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.5% alc., 61,000 cases, $20, screwcap. Cellared and Bottled by
Decoy, Ho[land, CA.. Part of the Duckhorn Wine Co. portfolio. A blend of fruit from warmer Sonoma County
appellations with fruit from cooler areas. Vinified in 10% French oak, 90% stainless steel.
Light golden yellow
color with a slight spritz in the glass. Pleasant aromas of lemon-lime, applesauce and vanilla creme. Vibrant on
the palate, with flavors of lemon, pear, butterscotch and caramel, as well as a subtle petrol note in the
background. Nicely balanced with just a whiff of oak. An unpretentious daily drinker.
2015 Domaine Della Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.27, TA 0.62, 125 cases, $60. Produced &
bottled by Domaine Della Dale, Santa Rosa, CA.. Sourced from three vineyards including Ritchie Vineyard.
Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 30% new.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of
lemon rind, slate and caramel. A slightly reductive (matchstick) style, with appealing richness of lemon curd and
pineapple flavors. Slightly viscous, endowed with bright with a sumptuous citrus-driven finish.
2015 Duckhorn Napa Valley Chardonnay
14.1% alc., 13,500 cases, $35. Cellared and bottled by Duckhorn
Vineyards, Hopland, CA.. Vinified by Renée Ary, only the fourth winemaker in the four-decade history of
Duckhorn Vineyards. 90% French oak barrel fermentation with lees stirring for 10 months and 10% in stainless
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Clean aromas of pear, cut apple, tropical fruits and
spice that fade some over time in the glass. The flavors echo the aromas in a fruit-driven style with some
richness. There is a hint of salinity and the wine ends on a lemon-lime note. Somewhat shallow and less
appealing over time in the glass. It seemed to me there may be some RS in this wine.
2015 Fallon Place La Cruz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.9% alc, pH 3.29, TA 0.69, 51 cases,
$38. Produced and bottled by Fallon Place Wines, San Francisco, Ca.. Aged 12 months in neutral French oak
barrels. (A second bottle tasted had aromas of cooked tropical fruits and off notes. The
wine was a bit flat on the palate and probably was corked although not evident to me aromatically)
Bright golden yellow color in the glass. Bright aromas of lemon, yellow apple, creme brulee and warm
brioche lead to a nicely appointed core of lemon, pineapple, pear, and caramel apple flavors. The texture is
slightly creamy and there is a briny hint of the sea. A richer, riper style that seems oak appointed even though
only neutral oak was used.
2015 Frank Family Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.47, TA 0.64, $35. The
foundation for this wine is the Frank Family’s Lewis Vineyard located in Napa Carneros near the
shores of San Pablo Bay. 68 acres planted to Chardonnay and 10 acres planted to Pinot Noir. Other
sources include Beckstoffer Vineyards and Hudson Vineyards in Napa Carneros, and Sangiacomo
Vineyards in Sonoma Carneros. Barrel fermented and aged on the lees with hand stirring in French
oak barrels, 34% new, 33% once-filled and 33% twice-filled.
Moderately light golden yellow color in
the glass. Leading off are aromas of buttery brioche, lemon curd, poached pear, banana and burnt
caramel. A rich and well-ripened style, yet easy going, with flavors of pear, yellow nectarine and
cantaloupe embellished with meticulous integration of oak on the palate. Silky in the mouth with a modest, but
2015 Frank Family Vineyards Lewis Vineyard Reserve Carneros Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.32, TA
0.64, 1,000 cases, $65. The Lewis Vineyard was bought by Rich Frank in 2000 and named for Paul Frank’s
son, Lewis. 58 acres are planted to Chardonnay in shallow and dense clay loam soils. Dijon clones. Aged 11
months in French oak barrels, 100% new.
Very light golden yellow color in the glass. A more mineral driven
nose and palate compared to the regular Carneros bottling. Aromas of lemon-lime, pear and apple are
replicated in the flavors with added notes of green apple and a hint of smoky oak on the palate. Very polished
and classy, with a glorious finish filled with robust apple goodness.
2015 Hirsch Vineyards Estate Ft Ross-Seaview Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
12.5% alc., 245 cases, $60.
Grown, produced and bottled by Hirsch Vineyards, Cazedero, CA.. Low yields in 2015 produced only 1.3 tons
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Very shy aromas of lemon oil, pineapple and ripe apple lead to
a moderately rich palate of lemon, pear and green apple flavors, infused with a steely bite of acidity. A bit too
austere and hi-strung for my taste and a deviation from the style of this Chardonnay in the past.
2015 Kanzler Family Vineyards Walker Station Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
pH 3.30, 98 cases, $56 - Sold out. Produced and bottled by Kanzler Vineyards, Sebastopol, CA.. Inaugural vintage
for this new vineyard-designated wine. 3-acre vineyard located in Green Valley of Russian River Valley. Aged
over 14 months in French oak barrels, 40% new, and finished 2 months in stainless steel.
Light golden yellow
color in the glass. Reserved aromas of lemon, lime and ocean breeze. Very pleasant in a mineral-inflected
style with austere flavors of lemon, peach and yellow apple. Nicely balanced and easygoing, with
complimentary oak, and a quenching finish.
2015 Kitá Hilliard Bruce Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
12.8% alc., pH 3.15, TA 0.0.645,
165 cases, $30. Release fall 2017. Produced and bottled by Chumash Cellars, Lompoc, CA.. Dijon
clones 76 and 96. Harvest Brix 22.0º. Lees stirring with no malolactic fermentation. Aged 6 months in
French oak barrels, 14% new, 86% neutral.
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Aromas of pear,
green apple, lime zest and nuts lead to a reserved style most noted for its acid-driven minerality.
Flavors of citrus and green apple carry through to a finish offering a tight cut of acidity. A bare fruit
style that will appeal to aficionados of non-MLF and minimally oaked Chardonnay.
2015 Lombardi Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.3% alc.,pH 3.29, TA 0.68, 200 cases, $42. Bottled by
Lombardi Wines, Santa Rosa, CA.. Sourced from 3 Starrs Vineyard. Wente clone. Fermented and aged 12
months in French oak barrels, 18% new.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Slowly evolving aromas of
lemon, petrichor and buttered waffle appear over time in the glass. More expressive on the palate, with flavors
of lemon, poached pear and apple paired with a pleasing texture. An unpretentious, every day style.
2015 Lucienne Lone Oak Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.50, TA 0.61, 155
cases, $40. Release May 2017. Grown, produced and bottled by Lucienne Vineyards, Soledad, Ca.. Harvest
Brix 24.8º. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 50% new, 50% neutral.
Moderately light golden yellow color
in the glass. Reserved aromas of lemon, pineapple and toasty brioche. Flavors of poached pear, cooked apple,
yellow raisin and caramel offered in a rich and ripe style. Slightly viscous in the mouth, with an oak-infused
2015 Lucienne Smith Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay
14.5% alc., pH 3.64, TA 0.56, 170 6-
pack cases, $40. Harvest Brix 24.5º. Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, 50% new and 50% neutral.
golden yellow color in the glass. The aromas of lemon curd, pear, white peach, buttery brioche and righteous
oak maintain over time in the glass. Plush and velvety on the palate, with full weighted flavors of citrus,
pineapple, cooked apple, white stone fruits and poached pear. Ripe fruited and almost syrupy in density, with
embossed notes of caramelized oak. Well done in this flamboyant, Caliesque style.
2015 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.2% alc., 954 cases, $34, screwcap. Grapes sourced
from Kent Ritchie, Martinelli, Mirabelle, Charles Heintz, Mill Station and Braughton vineyards. Gently whole
cluster pressed, fermented and aged on the lees with occasional stirring for 9 months in French oak barrels.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Enticing aromas of lemon-lime, pink grapefruit and ripe pear.
Straightforward, but offering crisp citrus and white stone fruit flavors that are energized by good acidity.The
wine finishes with a mineral oil taste.
Migration, Santa Rosa, CA.
Migration, part of the Duckhorn family, was founded in 2001. It’s roots are in the 90-acre Running Creek Estate
Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, but Migration also sources premium grapes from top vineyards in other
cool climate appellations including Dierberg and Bien Nacido in the Santa Maria Valley and Charles Heintz
Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast.
Winemaker Dana Epperson tries to bring out the distinctiveness of each vineyard-designated Chardonnay.
Dana’s emphasis on terroir relates to her deep viticultural roots, including past positions guiding grower
relations for both Jamieson Ranch and Artesa Vineyards. While at Artesa, she worked alongside former
Duckhorn Vineyards winemaker Mark Beringer and in a way, studied the Duckhorn style before she joined the
Duckhorn Wine Company team.
Along with the emphasis on singular personalities of her wines, Dana uses a light hand with new oak with
moderate toast levels to make wines that are balanced with only oak subtlety framing the flavors. If oak or
buttery notes scare you away from California Chardonnay, you will find these wines appealing.
All Migration Chardonnays are cellared and bottled by Migration in Hopland, CA.
Migration Chardonnay (and Pinot Noir) wines are sold on the website at www.MigrationWine.com.
2015 Migration Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14,2% alc., $32. 75% malolactic fermentation. Aged 10
months in French oak barrels, 30% new and 60% neutral along with 20% stainless steel.
yellow color in the glass. Nicely appointed aromas of lemon pie, yellow stone fruits and caramel. Somewhat
light and austere and straightforward, with flavors of lemon-lime dominating. Flavor notes of straw and green
herb are found. The wine is softly textured and bolstered by a good acid spine.
2015 Migration Running Creek Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
13.5% alc., $55. 75%
malolactic fermentation. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 30% new and 60% neutral along with 10%
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. Highly aromatic, with hi-tone scents of pear,
white stone fruits, white flowers and lemon blossom. Bright and satisfying in the mouth with vivid flavors of
lemon custard, pear, white nectarine and lime. Sleek and balanced, with only a whisper of oak, and a cleansing
2015 Migration Charles Heintz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.5% alc., $55. 75% malolactic
fermentation. Aged 10 months in 90% French oak barrels, 30% new and 60% neutral along with 10% stainless
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass. Shy aromas of lemon oil, mango, banana and rain water. Full charged
on the palate, with a vigorous show of grilled lemon, yellow peach, pineapple and creme caramel
flavors. A denser, riper offering that has appeal but lacks vibrancy.
2015 Migration Dierberg Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
14.1% alc., $55. 75% malolactic fermentation.
Aged 10 months in 90% French oak barrels, 30% new and 60%
neutral, along with 10% stainless steel.
Moderately light golden
yellow color in the glass. Fresh, clean aromas of ocean air,
lemon, and vanilla creme. Very friendly, with noticeable vibrancy
and finish, offering a bracing acidity that lifts and energizes the
palate, leading the drinker to want more. The flavors of lemon-lime and
white stone fruits are sustained and satisfying through a palate-cleansing
2015 Migration Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
14.1% alc., $55. 75% malolactic
fermentation. Aged 10 months in 90% French oak barrels, 30% new and 60% neutral, along with 10% stainless
Moderately light golden yellow color in the glass. More reductive on the nose, with aromas of flint, oil
slick, lemon oil and white peach, becoming more appealing with swirling over time. Citrus-driven in a rather
austere style, featuring earthy lemon-lime flavors set off by notes of white stone fruits and nutty oak. The
slightly creamy texture has appeal as does the wine's mature grape quality.
2015 Presqu’ile Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
13.5% alc., pH 3.35, TA 0.68, $35. Produced and bottled
by Presqu’ile Winery, Santa Maria, CA.. 100% estate grapes. Clones 124, 76, 4 (Wente), 131, 95 and 96.
Native yeast fermentation, native malolactic conversion and aging on the lees. Aged 12 months in French oak
barrels, 15% new and 85% neutral, and 6 months in stainless steel.
Moderately light golden yellow color in the
glass. Shy but intriguing, with steely, stony aromas accompanying apple notes. A somewhat understated,
citrus-driven style with bracing acidity leading to a soprano finish. Slightly creamy in the mouth with a hint of
lemony sea salt. No oak character at all.
2015 Sonoma-Loeb Sangiacomo Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.39, TA 0.62, 1150 cases,
$27. The relationship with the Sangiacomo family dates to 1990 and today sources have been
expanded to include several of Sangiacomo’s best blocks. Harvest Brix 23.7º. Fermented and aged
on its lees for 8 months in French oak barrels, with full malolactic fermentation.
Light golden color in
the glass. Complex nose offering aromas of citrus peel, apple, butter and lees. Somewhat steely on
the palate, with refreshing flavors of grilled lemon, melon and pear. Very slight reductive note of flint is
evident. Nicely composed with a good cut on the finish.
2015 Sonoma-Loeb Envoy Carneros Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.48, TA 0.54, 973 cases, $38. A limited
production wine made from Wente, Hyde and Robert Young selections of Chardonnay from
Sangiacomo Vineyard. Harvest Brix 23.5º-25.0º. Barrel fermented and aged 8 months on its lees in French oak barrels. The
wine underwent partial malolactic fermentation.
Light golden yellow color in the glass. Very fragrant
with aromas of lemon custard, yellow apple, tropical fruits, and vanilla. Citrus-driven flavors of lemon
and pineapple reflect plenty of California sunshine kissed goodness. Silky in the mouth, with enviable
balance and some finishing intensity.
2015 Sonoma-Loeb El Novillero Carneros Chardonnay
14.1% alc., pH 3.40, TA 0.56, 485 cases, $42. El Novillero is a special cool,
windswept section at Sangiacomo Vineyard with unusual for
Carneros gravelly, rocky bench land soils. Robert Young clone
planted in 1993. Harvest Brix 23.1º. Barrel fermented and aged
on its lees for 10 months in French oak barrels, 50% new, with
100% malolactic fermentation.
Moderately light golden yellow
color in the glass. Lovely aromas of lemon, banana and other tropical
fruits, creme brulee, and subtle toasty oak. Somewhat lush, seamless
and seductive due its clean and fresh character, offering flavors of
lemon, Golden Delicious apple, and golden pear. There is deft oak
management and a long lemon-infused finish. A connoisseur's
2015 Three Sticks Origin Durell Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
14.4% alc., pH 3.58, TA 0.62, 398
cases, $50. Released February 7, 2017. Old Wente 5 block and V9 Hyde block. Fermented in concrete eggs
with inhibited malolactic fermentation. Aged 11 months in stainless steel.
Moderately light golden yellow color in
the glass. Aromas of lemon curd, pineapple, green apple, vanilla, straw and wet clay are quite endearing.
Exceptional spirit and brightness, with flavors of lemon, white peach, pineapple and apple unplugged from oak.
The slightest tannins are evident in this edgy and mildly steely wine that has some finish persistence.
2015 Three Sticks One Sky Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay
14.2% alc., pH 3.43, TA 0.63, 241 cases, $50. Released
February 7, 2017. Old Wente selection grown at 900 to 1,100
feet elevation in red iron volcanic soil over calcareous strata.
Aged 15 months in French oak barrels, 60% new with 100%
Moderate golden yellow color in the
glass. Compared to Origin, this wine is softer and more mellow.
Aromas of lemon oil, toasty brioche and creme brulee transition to a
rounded core of baked lemon, pie crust and blond caramel in the mouth.
Slightly viscous with generous fullness and a righteous finish. The acidity
is fully integrated such that the wine is soft like worn Ugh boots. Oak
checks in but enhances rather than leads.
Dutton-Goldfield Wines are Consistently Top Shelf
Valerie Wathen of Dutton-Goldfield Winery recently hosted me for a vineyards tour with Steve Dutton and a
tasting of some current Pinot Noirs. We spent some time at both Emerald Ridge Vineyard and Jentoft Vineyard,
both in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley AVA. Emerald Ridge was planted in 2001 to multiple suitable
clones and Jentoft to the Calera clone in 2000. As the vineyards have matured, the wines produced from these
sites have shown special qualities. Emerald Ridge became a vineyard-designate in 2009 and Jentoft, a
component of the special Deviate Sonoma Coast bottling, is now being considered for vineyard-designation.
Dutton-Goldfield represents a unique collaboration between fifth-generation farmer, Steve Dutton, and veteran
winemaker Dan Goldfield. The two longtime friends and colleagues began their winery with a handshake in a
vineyard on 1998. Steve Dutton’s father, Warren Dutton, grew Pinot Noir and Chardonnay beginning in the
mid-1960s in the cooler, western part of Sonoma County. Today, along with his brother, Steve manages over 80
separate vineyards comprising more that 1,100 acres. Dan Goldfield graduated from University of California at
Davis with an M.S. in Enology in 1986. He went on to earn his winemaking stripes at Robert Mondavi Winery,
Schramsberg, eventually finding a passion for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and became the winemaker at La
Crema Winery and then Hartford Court, which was created under his direction.
Most of Dutton-Goldfield’s vineyards are located in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley as can be seen in
the map below. This area is located in the southwestern portion of the Russian River Valley and is one of the
coolest AVAs in Sonoma County. Here, the predominant Goldridge fine sandy loam soils provide excellent
drainage and balanced nutrients, and the vines benefit from the cool air and fog from the ocean through the
Petaluma Wind Gap.
Dutton-Goldfield has a winning formula: carefully selected vineyards most of which are expertly managed by
one of the proprietors and meticulous winemaking by the other proprietor who is a veteran of his craft. Visit
2014 Dutton-Goldfield Redwood Ridge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., pH 3.56, TA 0.61,
278 cases, $62. Inaugural bottling from William Wesley Vineyard located in the Annapolis area of the Sonoma
Coast. Only 5 miles from the coast but at an elevation above the fog line allowing for enough gentle warming
throughout the day for adequate grape maturation. Gravely soil, close-spaced vines lead to low yields, thickskinned
fruit, small berries and concentrated fruit. De-stemmed, layered into open-top fermenters where a 5-
day cold soak ensued. The wine was racked in March and barreled an additional 5 months before bottling.
Total aging in French oak barrels was 15 months in 55% new barrels.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass.
Pleasing perfume of black cherry, dark red berries and baking spices. An impeccably balanced wine with
delightful flavors of black raspberry and blueberry-pomegranate underlain with a riff of nutty oak and savory
spice. Rather elegant, but with firm fruit tannins providing support. The finish is remarkable for its intensity and
2015 Dutton-Goldfield Angel Camp Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.51, TA 0.67,
240 cases, $58. This 10-acre vineyard is owned by Dan Goldfield’s good friend, Brian Zalaznick, who planted
this vineyard in memory of his brother and family. It is located west of Philo on a scenic knoll overlooking the
valley. An assortment of Dijon and heritage clones are planted - Pommard, ‘828,’ and 667 are in this wine. Destemmed,
5-day cold soak in small open-top fermenters, clones co-fermented. Aged 15 months in French oak
barrels, 50% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. I loved the aromas of cherry and warm spices. The mid
weight flavors of blueberry, pomegranate, cherry and spice are enticing. The tannins are very fine grained and
gentle, a woodsy oak note plies the background, and the wine ends with a slightly tart, well-spiced red fruit
2015 Dutton-Goldfield Azaya Ranch Vineyard Marin County Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.59, TA .63, 184
cases, $62. Vineyard planted by Mark Pasternak for the McEvoy family in Hicks Valley. 18-acres are planted to
clones 667, ‘828,’ 115, 777 and 2A. This wine contains ‘828,’ 667 and 115. De-stemmed, 7-day cold soak in
open-top fermenters, no sulfur dioxide at crusher to preserve delicacy. Initially aged in 45% new French oak,
then blended in early spring. Total aging 15 months.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry,
graham and vanilla set the stage. Impressive cherry sap lifted by bright acidity and framed by tightly would
tannins. Impressive attack, mid palate presence and finishing power with length.
2014 Dutton Goldfield Emerald Ridge Vineyard Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., pH 3.67, TA 0.60, 646 cases, $62. Vineyard planted in 2001 by Steve Dutton in Goldridge
sandy loam soil to several Pinot Noir clonal blocks. This offering contains Pommard, 2A, 667 and
‘828.’ De-stemmed, 5-day cold soak in open-top fermenters, aged 10 months in French oak barrels,
Moderate garnet color in the glass. A complex wine with an array of aromas including wild
dark berries, cardamom spice, forest and floral bouquet. Mid weight styled juicy flavors of blueberry,
dark raspberry and plum. Supportive oak with soft tannins and a quenching finish. This wine will benefit
from more time in bottle.
2015 Dutton-Goldfield Deviate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., Ph 3.49, TA 0.68, 406 cases,
$72. A followup of the first deviation from single-vineyard bottlings in 2013. This wine is a blend if two
far flung Sonoma Coast vineyards: Jentoft Vineyard in Green Valley (Calera clone) and Putnam
Vineyard near Annapolis. De-stemmed, 5-day cold soak in small open-top fermenters, aged 15 months
in French oak barrels, 55% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Earth, floral and foliage aromas
compete with an array of dark berry scents that is intoxicating. Very smooth and sexy on the palate
with vibrant blackberry flavor framed by ripe fruit tannins. Remarkable follow through on the intense
finish that seems to last a minute. Still very young, but blessed with unbridled potential. You can plan a special
dinner around this wine.
2015 Dutton-Goldfield Devil’s Gulch Vineyard Marin County Chardonnay
13.5% alc., 80 cases, $N/A. This wine is to be
offered to wine club members first in the fall 2017, but check with
the winery for availability. A very limited bottling from vines
planted in 1980. Aged on the lees in stainless steel.
yellow color in the glass. A very special, beautifully composed
Chardonnay that is crisp, bright and juicy, even when tasted the following
day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle that sat out on my
desk. More pleasing pear and other orchard fruit flavors than citrus
backed by an invigorating cut of acidity.
Talisman Wines: An In-Depth Tasting of 2014 Vintage & Older Vintage Pinot Noir
One of the great pleasures of exploring the the Pinot Trail is sitting down with a winemaker over an extended
time at the winery, tasting and re-tasting his or her wines, and really delving into what the winemaker is trying to
achieve. Sessions like this bring to mind this quote from Tim Atkin MW. “I believe that the place where a wine
was made, not to mention the character, ambition and talent of the person who made it, is highly relevant to
how that wine tastes. I want to know about these things, just as I want to know about vintage conditions,
personal eccentricities and a winemaker’s take on the world. All these things make wine different: all these
things made wine special.”
Winemaker Scott Rich and I have a friendship that goes back over ten years. His father was a physician and
this has meant a commonality that we have embraced. I have always been intrigued with his Pinot Noirs since
my first extensive encounter with them in 2006 when I experienced wines dating back to 1997. Since then, we
have touched bases at many Pinot Noir events, but until recently I had never sat down for an afternoon with
him at his winery and really got to know him and his wines.
Scott learned his craft as a research enologist for both RH Phillips and Robert Mondavi Winery and later under
Tony Soter at Etude in Carneros. He made the wines and oversaw the construction of a winery at Moraga
Vineyards in Bel Air in Southern California. As with many winemakers, his desire for self expression led him to
start his small label with his spouse, Marta Rich, in 1992. Scott currently makes his wines in a tiny warehouse
facility on Eighth Street in Sonoma with an office and war room above where we met to taste.
Talisman is a word for a charm and the Talisman logo on the label is a stylized medicine wheel, a
representation of the paho, a Native American charm that has been imbued with the power to protect one from
harm. The paho has the circle of the life and the four directions that show one’s place in the universe. The rays
around the edge represent the sun that gives energy for life on earth (and allows wine grapes to ripen). The
name and logo was given to Scott by his Native American mother and is a tribute to her.
Scott’s vineyard sources are truly unique for he is a lover of distinctive, challenging terroir. He says, “I like to
express terroir - that is the beauty of Pinot Noir - and that comes through in the more extreme vineyards.”
Current production of vineyard-designated Pinot Noir is about 5,000 cases annually. Vineyards range
throughout Sonoma County as well as Yorkville Highlands, and Napa Valley.
The tasting took place on May 18, 2017. The 2014 Pinot Noir wines had been bottled at the end of June and
July 2016. The wines are still quite young and some are not released as yet for Scott strives to make wines that
have age ability and need time in bottle for full expression. As Scott notes, “I make my wines to age, even if no
one gives them a chance.” In 2014, the stems were ripe, and although he always uses about 25% whole
cluster in his ferments, four of the 2014 wines were made with 100% whole cluster and designated “méthode
I had the opportunity to take the opened wines home with me and re-taste the 2014 vintage Pinot Noirs in my
usual fashion four days after opening. My reviews reflect both impressions upon opening the bottles and retasting
four days later.
2014 Talisman Gunsalus Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 392 cases, $54. Vineyard
farmed by retired research scientists Glen and Pamela Gunsalus. Vineyard was planted in 2001 in the
Goldridge soils of the Green Valley of Russian River Valley. Clones 114, 115, 667 and 777. Aged 21 months in
French oak barrels, 44% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Aromas of cherry, savory herbs and
spice. Deep cherry flavor with a savory herbs note in the background. Middleweight styled, with modest
tannins, a bit of spice accent, welcome touch of oak, a soft texture and some finish. The slightest hint of
alcoholic warmth is evident.
2014 Talisman Gunsalus Vineyard Dijon Clone 114 - Méthode Ancienne Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 46 cases, $75. Dijon clone 114, 100% whole cluster fermented. Aged 21 months in French oak
barrels, 50% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass (slightly darker than the regular Gunsalus bottling).
Inviting blend of dark muddled cherry fruit and savory notes of stem and mulch. Definitely different than the
regular Gunsalus bottling, with a little deeper black cherry flavor, more mid palate presence, more lifted fruit, a
little more structured backbone and more finish.
2014 Talisman Red Dog Vineyard Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 366 cases. This vineyard is
located above Bennett Valley on the northwestern side of Sonoma Mountain. A low yielding site exposed to the
full brunt of cold air flowing off the Pacific Ocean. 800 feet elevation, planted in 2000 in loamy clay. Clones 115,
777 and Pommard 5. Aged 21 months in French oak barrels, 60% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass.
Teasing aromas of black cherry and blueberry fruit with integrated oak, timber and spice notes. The lovely core
of dark fruits including very ripe cherry and raspberry are accented with hints of clove and other warm spices
that alert the senses. The suede tannins and plenty of finishing power leave an impression.
2014 Talisman Red Dog Vineyard Honey’s Cuvée Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 46
cases. Aged 21 months in French oak barrels, 50% new. Clones 115 and 777, 100% whole cluster
fermented - méthode ancienne.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. More primary than the
regular Red Dog bottling, but with deeper flavored darker fruits, a silky mouthfeel, and a delightful dark
berry infused finish. A bit more rustic and savory at this stage, and more tannin, but with a generous
finish. The wine needs considerable foreplay as reflected in the vivid fruit flavors assuming
considerably more intensity over time in the glass. Best to cellar a few years.
2014 Talisman Weir Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 241 cases, $65. This vineyard has
the coldest nighttime temperature of all vineyards Talisman works with. Gravelly, well-drained loamy clay soils.
1,000 foot elevation. Clones 2A, Pommard, Romanée-Conti and Rochioli selections. Aged 21 months in French
Oak barrels, 60% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Engaging aromas of black cherry and blueberry
lead to a mid weight styled wine with a core of sweet and juicy dark red and blue fruits accompanied by a
thread of herbal oak. Quite suave in the mouth with a glorious finish.
2014 Talisman Weir Vineyard Méthode Ancienne Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 47
cases, $85. Aged 21 months in French oak barrels, 50% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the
glass. Sensual aromas of lurking dark red fruits. The bright and seductive dark red cherry core is
underlain with a firm but not intrusive tannic backbone. The whole cluster seems to fill out this wine
with goodness. There are accents of exotic spices, pine sap and burnt tobacco contributed by the
whole cluster. The finish seems to go on and on. Hard to resist now, but this beauty will benefit from
more time in the cellar as it is built for aging.
2014 Talisman Adastra Vineyard Los Carneros Napa Valley Pinot Noir
14.9% alc., 291 cases. This
vineyard is organically farmed and certified CCOF by owner Chris Thorpe and son-in-law Edwin Richards.
Talisman is the only winery to source fruit from this vineyard. Planted in clay loam soils in 1994 to 113, 115,
777, Pommard, 2A, and two unnamed suitcase selections. Aged 21 months in French oak barrels, 67% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Scents of spiced dark berry, fertile earth, rose petal and pine lead off.
A husky, full-bodied style with concentrated flavors of earthy blackberry, yet not jammy with added notes of
dark chocolate and floral goodness. Bold, yet juicy with an intensely black raspberry fruited finish.
2014 Talisman Adastra Vineyard Méthode Ancienne Los Carneros Napa Valley Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 46
cases. Aged 21 months in French oak barrels, 50% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Very ripely fruited
impression on the nose and palate. Mid weight plus in style, with bright dark fruit flavors engaged with an exotic
spice and floral note. Noticeable tannins, inviting oak integration, and an amazing finish that lingers with black
cherry and black raspberry goodness.
2014 Talisman Jamison Valley Vineyard Destein Estate Bennett Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 59 cases,
$55. This vineyard receives the brunt of cool air thru the Petaluma Gap. Planted in 1996 at an elevation of
565-625 feet in gravelly, volcanic mudflow. Clone 777. Aged 21 months in French oak barrels, 50% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Embracing aromas of red cherry, dark cranberry, spice and floral
bouquet. Plush on the palate, yet lifted with juicy acidity. Forward flavors of cherry and red berry with a spice
back note and a refreshing finish. Still lovely when tasted four days after opening.
2014 Talisman Sadie’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 342 cases, $45. Vineyard is
located along Bodega Highway west of Sebastopol. Planted in 2009 in Goldridge sand loam soil. Pommard
and Dijon 115. Aged 21 months in French oak barrels, 50% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass.
Aromas of cherry, sage, warm spices and sous-bois. Mid weight flavors of red cherry and berry with a vegetal
thread in the background. Bright acidity and balanced tannins with some persistence on the dried cherry fused
2014 Talisman Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 140 cases. Vineyard is
located on the southern flank of Sonoma Mountain on the western edge of Sonoma Valley. Soils are volcanic -
red, pebbly clay loam. Planted in 1998 at 750 feet elevation to clones 115, 777 and Pommard. Very cool site,
exposed to foggy cold airflow from San Pablo Bay and the Petaluma Gap.
Moderate garnet color in the glass.
The noise is rather primary initially with delicate aromas of cherry, picking up intensity over time in the glass.
The cherry essence is integrated with feral, game and floral notes making for an interesting drink. A little more
tannin is evident in this wine. There is deft oak management and the finish has good persistence.
2014 Talisman Huckleberry’s Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.7% alc., 140 cases. A 1-acre vineyard
farmed by Bill and Lauren Hipp. Planted in 2004 at an elevation of 70 feet in Goldridge sandy loam soil. Clones
115, 667, 777 and ‘828.’ Aged 21 months in French oak barrels, 50% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass.
The nose is engaging and special with aromas of cherry, exotic spices and underbrush. Light to mid weight in
style, with well spiced cherry and blueberry flavors that are framed by quenching acidity. Well structured for
2014 Talisman Rancho Estrella Vineyard Napa Valley Pinot Noir
14,7% alc, 46 cases. Known as Star
Ranch, this vineyard is located in a farming community in an obscure valley in Napa County. Planted in 2006 at
600 feet elevation in weathered thyolite soils. Clones are Pommard and Dijon ‘828.’ Aged 21 months in French
oak barrels, 50% new.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Shy, but pleasing aromas of redder fruits, earthy
flora and green leaf. Light to mid weight in style, with flavors that echo the aromas. Dry, but not bitter tannins
are quite noticeable.
2014 Talisman Starscape Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.8% alc., 338 cases.
Vineyard is located in the Middle Reach sub region of the Russian River Valley. Clones 777 and ‘828.’
Aged 21 months in French oak barrels, 57% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Enticing
scents of cherry, green tea, and floral blossoms. Noteworthy attack of mid weight black raspberry and
black cherry flavors that really cling to the palate through the finish. Gentle tannins make for easy
drinking. The most fruit forward wine in the lineup with the most striking finish replete with vivid fruit
that hangs on for what seems like a minute.
Random choice of older wines.
2005 Talisman Hawk Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass.
This wine has developed tertiary characters. Aromas of leather, potpourri, burnt tobacco and timber lead to
faded fruit flavors with a bit of oak and olive flavor. The tannins are still notable but the wine is enjoyable. Drink
1996 Talisman Los Carneros Pinot Noir
Grapes sourced primarily from Truchard Vineyard.
tinge in the glass. Aromas of orange peel, crusty bread and pickling spices. Still some black cherry fruit but it is
dried out and fades rather quickly in the glass. The tannins have disappeared. Drink up.
1995 Talisman Los Carneros Pinot Noir
Grapes sourced from Madonna Vineyard and Mueller-Mckenzie
Yellow-brown caste in the glass. Aromas of marzipan and eucalyptus. Faded fruit trying to give its
best, with a spice and leather accent, finishing with some grip. Drink up.
Talisman wines are sold online at www.talismanwine.com. The Talisman tasting room is located at 13651
Arnold Drive in Glen Ellen where a personal comparative Pinot Noir tasting experience is offered.
Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Paradise Revived in New Format The Santa Cruz
Winegrowers Association (SCMWA) will hold the 13th Annual Pinot Paradise on Saturday, September 23,
2017, with a Pinot Harvest Dinner, and continues the weekend of October 13-15, 2017, with a Reserve Tasting,
Pinot Picnic, Technical Pinot Noir Session and Pathway to Pinot Paradise Wine Trail. The event is now devoted
to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Pinot Harvest Dinner under the Stars
will be held at Lester Family Vineyards, the Reserve Wine Tasting and Dinner at Hollins House Pasatiempo,
the Pinot Picnic in the Park at Quail Hollow Ranch Park, a Technical Pinot Noir Session at Scotts Valley Hilton,
and a Pathway to Pinot Paradise at the wineries in and around the Santa Cruz Mountains. Pre-event pricing for
tickets is now in effect. For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.scmwa.com.
Oregon Wine Experience® Miracle Auction and Salmon Bake This gala event of the
Oregon Wine Experience® will be August 26, 2017 from 4:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the historic Brigham Knoll
Campus in Jacksonville, Oregon. The Coquille Indian tribe will cook salmon over and alder and cedar wood fire
and this will be accompanied by an extravagant outdoor buffet created by notable local chefs. The wine served
throughout the dinner and Miracle Auction will be the Gold and Best of Show award winning wines from the
Oregon Wine Competition®. The Miracle Auction sends 100 percent of the proceeds to Asante Children’s
Miracle Network. Over 100 wineries from across the state of Oregon participate in the week long Oregon Wine
2017 WineSong The 33rd Annual WineSong event will be held on September 8 & 9, on the Mendocino
Coast of Northern California. The Little River Inn will host A Pinot Noir Celebration on Friday, September 8,
featuring wines from Anderson Valley and other renowned Pinot Noir producing regions. The WineSong Charity
Auction & Tasting on Saturday, September 9, is held at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens with all
proceeds going to the Mendocino Coast Hospital Foundation. Tickets may be purchased at www.winesong.org.
Sonoma County Tourism Booming Last year new records for hotel occupancy and average daily
room rates were set at $166 from January to December 2016. Total travel-related spending in the county rose
to $1.9 billion, an increase of 5.7 percent over 2015, and the industry supports more than 20,000 jobs
according to the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau.
Kosta Browne at 20 Years A recent article at www.forbes.com caught my eye titled, “Kosta Browne 20
Years Later.” After very humble beginnings, the winery now produces at least 14 different wines with a total
production of about 25,000 cases a year. In 2016, Nico Cueva became the head winemaker, taking over for
Michael Browne. The winery has such exclusivity now that its winery in The Barlow in Sebastopol is not open to
the public, although special guests can often land a tour. I have written extensively about Kosta Browne in the
PinotFile, and my reviews go back to the 2005 vintage. I first got to know Michael when he was crafting Kosta
Browne wines in the caves at Freeman Winery many years ago. Michael now has his own label, CIRQ, and
just released Pinot Noirs under that label from Bootlegger Vineyard and Treehouse Vineyard in the Sonoma
Coast. The Kosta Browne wines are only available through a mailing list at www.kostabrowne.com, as are the
CIRQ wines at www.cirq.com.
David Adelsheim Sells Eponymous Winery David Adelsheim is one of Oregon’s wine business
icons, having run Adelsheim Vineyard for nearly fifty years. He has sold his ownership to Jack and Lynn
Loacker, who have co-owned the winery since 1994, but will remain in an advisory role. Winemaker Dave
Paige will be retained and will focus solely on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The winery has grown from an initial
19 acres to six estate vineyards in the Chehalem Mountains and annual production of about 43,000 cases per
year. I am sure that David will continue to be an important supportive voice for the Oregon wine industry. Visit
Willamette Valley Pinot Noir as a Cultural Good Neal D. Hulkower used my tasting scores
and prices to see if Willamette Valley Pinot Noir reflected its value as a cultural good. Hulkower determined that
Willamette Value Pinot Noir satisfies Professor David Throsby’s six cultural value characteristics. He concluded
that Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is recognized by consumers as embodying some of the attributes of a cultural
good for which they are willing to pay a premium. Read the full report in the latest Oregon Wine Press at
For What Its Worth Golden Gate Wine Cellars in San Francisco conducted a blind tasting of 2014
California Pinot Noirs, all rated 94-96 by Robert Parker, except Alma Fria that was unrated (I reviewed it in
December 2016 and scored the wine 92). The tasting group consisted of 13 unnamed wine professionals. The
lineup included Argot (RP 96), North by Alban (RP 96), The Hilt Vanguard (RP 94), Rhys Horseshoe (RP 95),
Brewer-Clifton Hapgood (RP 96), Lucia Garys’ Vineyard (RP 95), J. Rochioli Three Corner (RP 95), Paul Lato
Seabiscuit (RP 95), and Alma Fria Holtermann (Unrated by RP). The clear winner was Alma Fria ($64.99) with
7 first, 2 second and 2 third place votes. Paul Lato was second and Argot was third. Visit
California Highway 1 Discovery Route This route offers a fantastic wine experience and vacation
any time of the year. California Highway 1 Discovery Route along coastal San Luis Obispo County features the
Avila Wine Trail, the Pacific Coast Wine Trail, and many other winery experiences in Edna Valley, Arroyo
Grande Valley, Avila Beach and San Simeon. Download the SLO Wine Map at www.winecoastcountry.com and
California Wine Production has Plateaued
Interested in Canned Wine? Tangent now offers the first 100% estate-grown and SIP-certified 2016
Sauvignon Blanc and a 2016 Rosé made with multiple varieties including a splash of Pinot Noir. The wines are
available in stores nationally for $7.99. Visit www.tangentwines.com.
Folate Intake and Breast Cancer Risk The Alcohol Research Forum presented a critique of
research to be published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2017, titled “Alcohol consumption and
breast cancer risk by family history of breast cancer and folate intake in younger women.” Forum members
considered this a very well-done analysis from the Nurses’ Health Study II, that followed young women for two
decades. The main results of this study were that without a positive family history of breast cancer, there was
no significant increase in cancer risk for any level of alcohol intake. With a positive family history, however,
there was a tendency for higher risk with increasing alcohol intake; this increase was not statistically significant
for those with high folate. Forum members concluded that the results from the present study should
greatly relieve anxiety about breast cancer for women without a positive family history of breast cancer
who choose to consume light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol. For women with a first-degree relative
with breast cancer, the data indicate that if they maintain a high level of folate intake, it may attenuate
an increase in risk associated with alcohol intake.
Live Longer by Moderate Drinking A recent study published in the July issue of Health Affairs
indicated that moderate drinking (14 drinks a week for men and fewer than seven drinks per week for women)
in combination with a healthy weight and avoidance of smoking cigarettes may add as much as seven years to
one’s life.This long term survey of the health habits of Americans 50 years of age and older was studied.
Obese smokers who drank heavily or not at all were the highest-risk group. The caveat is that this was a selfreported
study that leaves open the possibility of inaccurate reporting, but there are many similar research
studies in the literature to support the study’s findings.
Light Drinking Wine May Prevent Dementia The International Scientific Forum on Alcohol
Research (ISFAR) recently published a critique of a meta-analysis of recent research on drinking alcohol and
the risk of developing dementia. The meta-analysis found that light to moderate alcohol consumption (one drink
a day or less) leads to a lower risk of dementia that total abstinence. The risk for dementia was higher for those
who drank more than three to four drinks per day. There are many theories to account for the beneficial effect
of alcohol on developing dementia but it seems clear that people who drink wine lower their risk of developing
dementia. ISFAR members admit we just don’t know why this is true.
Health Revelations These comments have nothing to do with wine but bear highlighting. With all the
emphasis on lowering cholesterol, there is no consensus based on all current scientific studies that lowering
cholesterol through diet prevents heart disease. We have believed that lowering cholesterol would benefit
health. However, although most of the diet trials have lowered cholesterol, this did not reduce mortality from
heart attacks. The Minnesota Coronary Experiment actually found that the more men were able to lower their
cholesterol, the more likely they were to die from a heart attack. This is not to say that you should ignore a
significantly high cholesterol or LDL since that will most certainly require a combination of diet and drug (statin)
therapy particularly if there are other risk factors. Also of note regarding diet is that based on papers of
upwards of 500,000 people, no consensus association has been found between the consumption of saturated
fats and coronary heart disease. Since 1970, Americans have been replacing saturated fats with
polyunsaturated fats, yet cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of death among men and women.
Don’t be afraid to eat avocado, eggs, cheese and nuts in moderation unless you are on a strict dietary regimen!
Read more at www.medscape.com/viewarticle/882564.
Readers over the age of 35 (men) and 40 (women) should consider having a Coronary Heart Scan by
Electronic Beam Tomography (EBT), especially if they have any risk factors such as high blood pressure, high
cholesterol, diabetes, history of tobacco use, family history of heart disease, are overweight, or have significant
stress. This test (photo of scanner above) can detect your risk for heart disease at an early stage. It is the only
scanner FDA approved for coronary artery scanning and is the only scanner capable of capturing motionless
images of the heart (the heart beats 60 times per minute, 3,600 beats an hour, 80,000 beats in 24 hours, and
2.5 billion times in 80 years). It is known as the “gold standard” for heart scanning. The test detects calcified
plaque in the coronary arteries (a sign of atherosclerosis) and the resulting calcium score can be used by your
physician for determining your risk for a heart disease event in the subsequent ten years, and for advising you
about preventative measures. The EBT is inexpensive - $125 - can be ordered by your physician, and is
performed at imaging centers. It takes less than 15 minutes, needs no injection, and requires no significant
undressing. It does involve some radiation exposure. Remember, that about 25% of people who have a heart
attack have no predisposing factors and no symptoms. (Disclosure - I have no financial interest in EBT)
Commentary: Defining Great Wine
I read with great interest the provocative article by Remington Norman in Issue 56, 2017, of The World of Fine
Wine, titled, “What Defines Grand Vin?” More specifically, I was interested in his comments that spew venom
on many Old and New World wines that aspire to be great wines.
Norman doesn’t appear to think that New World wines are deserving of the accolade “grand vin.” He points out
that most vineyards contain young vines (less than 20-25 years old) and as a result produce wines “dominated
by varietal character rather than any other second-order qualities including site character.” New World
producers have an eagerness for professed site-specific wines “when there is little evidence of real qualitative
difference.” I agree that this is true for the majority of domestic Pinot Noirs, although I have had enough
examples of certain vineyards to be able to pick up site-specific qualities in the absence of senescent vines.
Norman is also under the impression that red wines are widely burdened by the “unholy trinity: overripeness,
over oaking and over extraction.” He admits this “regressive religion” has infected both New and Old World
wines. His subsequent comments are well founded: “Excessive ripeness delivers alcohol, extract and fruit
character but at the expense of freshness, balance and texture. It also blurs site and varietal character. Wood
can add welcome elements of sweetness or spiciness but needs careful attention if these are not to be
overdone. Oak tannins are more durable than fruit tannins and thus affect how and how well a wine ages. Over
extraction is often pursued in the wrong-headed belief that it is a substitute for natural concentration....and
reinforces the idea that ‘more’ is ‘better.’ Great wines are generally understated rather than loud, restrained
rather than strident.”
He goes on to say, “High alcohol, ‘gobs of fruit,’ ‘lashings of new oak,’ and massive density may lead to show
success, but they make for wines that are hard to drink with pleasure - the kinds of wines that consume the
consumer before the consumer has had the chance to consume them.” Norman lays blame in part on wine
critics, “There remain influential commentators who still consider size as an indicator if not the prime
determinant of quality.”
I too am in the camp of those who prefer Pinot Noir to be fresh, sensual and elegant rather than extracted,
tannic and over oaked. That said, there are winemakers who specifically prefer the well-endowed style of Pinot
Noir for a number of reasons and consider their wines successes if they match the stylistic goals they set out to
achieve. Norman notes, “Although style may not be in step with classicism and grand wines....the question of
the relationship between style and quality remains contentious.”
There are wines reviewed in the PinotFile that do offer dense extraction, ultra ripeness and high alcohol, and
significant oak overlay. Oak should never stand out, even in a young wine. I am concerned that some of these
heavily oaked wines will reach maturity with unyielding tannins. Some of these wines also reflect Norman’s
quip, “These are wines from everywhere yet wines from nowhere”. I have checked, and many of these wines
have received scores in the 90s in the popular trade publications indicating they are considered extraordinary
or even ‘great,’ despite the fact that the wines have a lip burn at finish due to high alcohol, and/or a fruit
compote character that seems out of place in Pinot Noir. Every Pinot Noir seems to get a score in the 90s
these days with score inflation both a reality and a notoriety opioid for reviewers.
Norman admits that grand vin is beyond precise verbal definition, but lists a number of building blocks: (1)
Balance, (2) Elegance/finesse/delicacy/subtlety/refinement, (3) Class/style/sophistication, (4) Concentration -
depth of fruit not over extraction, (5) Complexity, (6) Length - length, particularly in mid palate, is a signal
indicator of a great wine, (7) Persistence - desirable flavors or traits last on the finish, (8) Texture, (9)
Freshness, (10) Power - a core of natural energy upon which high alcohol and over extraction have no bearing,
(11) Weight - seamless integration of a wine’s elements across palate gives impression of weightlessness, (12)
Understatement, and (13) Age ability - truly great wines develop nuance over time rather than just enduring.
Perhaps we shouldn’t waste time trying to conclude which wines are “great,” or which style is the most
preferable, and decide which wines gives us the most pleasure. Norman is spot on correct when he states,
“What is beyond argument is that grand vin is not defined by style.” Wines that may be stylistically considered
unworthy of “grand vin” designation by some authoritarians may yet have features that offer joie de vivre and
greatness in the eye of the beholder. On the other hand, a wine can be great even if the drinker doesn’t like it.